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Brentwood Parents Focus on Behrmann's Ouster During School Board Meeting

Parents ask questions, but don't get answers, as board members cite privacy concerns.

Probably the most interesting thing about the Brentwood Board of Education meeting Tuesday night was not what was said, but rather what wasn’t said—or answered—and that is: Why is McGrath Elementary School's principal Kathleen Behrmann being bounced from her job after eight years?

Parents peppered the board with comments and questions from their seats in the audience and in front of the microphone during an extended open comment period before the meeting and, again, at the end of the two-hour meeting.

Roughly 45 people attended the meeting. Eight parents spoke; some pointedly, like attorney Jim Malone, who has a child at McGrath.

He wanted to talk about the contract, and asked if Behrmann’s contract is being revoked to one year, or not being renewed? 

“It was reported that (Mrs. Behrmann) was not being renewed, which would assume that a contract had expired,” Malone said. “It is my understanding that there is at least a strong possibility that she has a two-year contract and has another year to run. If that’s the case, if she is not leaving voluntarily, then the school board is not renewing her contract. They are terminating her.”

If that’s the case, conjectured Malone, the district could end up paying for two principal salaries at McGrath next year: that for Behrmann and her replacement - because of potential litigation. The board didn't respond.

Malone then directed his comments to board president Chris Jones.

“If this woman (Behrmann) had one more year to go on her contract and she has done a fantastic job as you’ve stated (in Patch), what in the world are you doing, throwing her out with a year to go?"

And with that began the first round of "no comments," and its variations, from Jones, the board and Superintendent Dr. Charles Penberthy.

“I can’t respond to any personnel question regarding Kathleen Behrmann,” Jones said.

So went the open-comment period - a monologue from parents while most board members sat poker-faced, listening, but not responding.

“That’s the most frustrating thing about this job,” Penberthy said. “Because we are administration, all we can do is listen. We are bound by confidentiality issues and legal statutes.”

Another parent and former board member, Johanna Winfield Berken, sympathized with the board members, but said they should have more clearly explained that the comment period was for public input, not dialogue.

However, there were a few signs of discontent and emotion among some board members as parents took turns talking during the open comment period.

Board member Dan Williams repeatedly nodded his head in disagreement when one parent, Cindy Manestar, a former PTO president and Behrmann supporter, said that she hoped “that the decision that was made (by the board about Behrmann) was made with all the information, and that they asked questions.”

Williams was the only board member who voted to extend Behrmann’s contract at a closed board meeting last month. Fellow board member Michelle Hassemer was not present for the 1-5 vote.

During the meeting, board member Kathy Glowski seemed visibly upset, face red and downcast, as Manestar continued to talk about Behrmann’s high character, in and out of school, and read a letter of support from another parent.

Manestar also took issue with how the news about a new principal was disseminated: the job was posted on the website on Feb. 14, three days before parents received an email from Penberthy.

Angela Lappin, who has a second-grader at McGrath, spoke highly of Behrmann and wanted to know why her job was posted when she hadn’t agreed to step down.

Again, Jones demurred that, “I can’t address that.”

Mark Wilson sat in the audience, and pressed Jones as to when questions from parents would be answered. Jones again reiterated that he couldn’t respond to any matter regarding personnel.

“We’re not asking you to address this right now, though that would be nice,” said Wilson, before asking when the parents might learn more.

“When the issue has been resolved,” Jones said.  

“So when it’s been concluded,” Wilson asked.

“That’s correct,” Jones said.

“So who in fact did you consult with,” Wilson asked.

“I can’t answer that right now,” said Jones, who acknowledged that some might perceive that the issue was mishandled by the board. “I get it,” he said.

“We can’t talk about (a lot of) this stuff,” said board member Keith Rabenberg after the meeting. “It’s a personnel matter, so we can’t. It’s illegal to (do so).”

So what about the contract: was it for one or two years?

“Administrators and principals, as a normal course, have two-year contracts that roll over or they don’t. Since she (Behrmann) has been here for more than two years, you can deduce that at one point in time she at least had a two-year contract,” Rabenberg said.

When pressed if Behrmann’s present contract was for a one or two-year term, Rabenberg responded: “I can’t comment on that.”

Kathleen Young February 23, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Kathleen has done a wonderful job as a principal.All the children love her and she knows each and every one of them.She has even helped a family that was homeless in our school and volunteers at a shelter every Wednesday.She is a great principal and a role model for us all,
addison54 February 23, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I like the point made by Mr. Malone. If Behrmann's contract is not being renewed after serving one year of a two year contract, then it only makes sense that the district would have to pay two salaries: both the new principal and Mrs. Behrmann. I find this funny considering the district is supposed to be taking "budget cuts". It seems to me like that would cost the school more in the long run. It's such a shame not all of our questions about the situation can be answered. But I didn't see anything mentioned about Katrina Harper's responses to the public comments. Based on my knowledge she has been against Behrmann for quite some time. And as a former student of Behrmann's and someone who went to school at McGrath while she was principal, I can confirm that she goes beyond the call of duty. Parents and administrators will never understand what a truly great teacher, principal, and person she is since they've never been in a classroom with her. Another sad day in Brentwood.
Mary Konroy February 24, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Addison, Katrina Harper did not address public comments during the meeting.
addison54 February 24, 2012 at 05:13 PM
That's my point exactly, Mary. She's accomplished her goal so she has nothing to say.
Shanahan February 24, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Brentwood has died, RIP
RDBet February 25, 2012 at 02:11 AM
The easy thing for the board to do would have been nothing, All the time they now have to give on hiring committees and dealing with this hubbub was surely not something they would jump into haphazardly. You guys are drama queens. Brentwood RIP, sad day for Brentwood...give me a break. Everybody will be OK.
Ed February 25, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I agree with RDBet...this is clearly a polarizing issue, but surely the School Board has taken the matter seriously. They clearly cannot discuss this issue - would you want hem to disclose details if YOU were the topic?
hoss February 25, 2012 at 09:48 PM
TRUTH WILL ON COME OUT IF BEHRMEN SHOULD DECIDE IN A LAW OF COURT, BSD GOOD LUCH WITH ONE--CAN ANYONE SAY TORTS
hoss February 25, 2012 at 09:49 PM
THE TRUTH IS OUT THER AND IT WILL COME OUT, IF BEHRMEN SHOULD DECIDE TO FILE SUIT IN A LAW OF COURT, BSD GOOD LUCH WITH ONE--CAN ANYONE SAY TORTS
hoss February 25, 2012 at 09:50 PM
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND IT WILL COME OUT, IF BEHRMEN SHOULD DECIDE TO FILE SUIT IN A LAW OF COURT, BSD GOOD LUCK WITH THIS ONE--CAN ANYONE SAY TORTS
RDBet February 26, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Torts.
RDBet February 26, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Torts.
RDBet February 26, 2012 at 06:37 AM
Torts. Hard to get excited about them though. We all pay for those torts against BSD, but only the lawyers and perhaps the plaintiff stand to profit from them.
hoss February 27, 2012 at 07:07 PM
It is not that anyone should get excited about torts. Yes, they even bore me. Torts are the basis of in civil suits. When torts are avoidable they will become extremely costly. If recent accounts, are true, the BSD cannot accord, even an unexpected cost at this time. It is possible that the BSD could be accountable for punitive as well as actual damages. That is every resident should be mad as all hell about this. Will Brentwood pay for two principals or will Behrman be the highest paid teacher in BSD history? The answer is both. Members need not worry about setting the record straight in this one. The truth will be discovered and a court will do it for them, if they cannot muster up the courage to set the record right. Yes, all of it and it is only a matter of time before all of this is in the public record. “Today’s word is "intentional," as in “intentional tort." I will use it in a question, a jury will have to answer “did the BSD committed an intentional tort against Kathleen Behrman That why all Brentwood School District Residents, the stakeholders of the school district who are upset with the firing of Kathleen Behrman should attend at the next meeting of the board and demand that the school district back off from its early decision. Who are they protecting anyway hard word Charlie Penberthy, as he unilaterally, cuts the wages of lunchroom workers, or the taxpayers of the BDS?
Ed February 27, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Hoss so you joined 5 days ago! Ok I'm confident that the elected Boards members did read and understand the "private personnel issues". They cannot legally speak of Personel issues! If you were employed by the school district would you like your private personal issues aired in public? I'm confident we voted this Board members to represent us! Why would they be trying to risk everything to "protect" Pemberty if he is out of here this summer? You are extremely Naive to think this professional Adults that work for Free are going to just ignoramoulsy vote on something so sensitive without the Facts! Anyways she was not "fired" they did not RENEW her contract as a Principal she is still a Teacher as far as we know!
hoss February 27, 2012 at 08:51 PM
That is it why the courts are made would not to second guest professionals, but make sure they get it right, only by the standards of the law. Courts are established to make the "pros" get it right. It appears to in my "non-professional opinion” that there is going to some opinion having some foundation in the law, for a planfits lawsuit to go forward. Let these two sides in fight before a judge. No matter whose win the Brentwood Community looses. A jurist will decide did, if an international tort occur, or was it a one year or two years, based only upon the law. I wise the BSD the best of luck in a court of law. Board are never elected to put a pro forma stamp of approval on anything the administration request. Boards are created to provide oversight, ok maybe I am naive. Public education administrators are just like other public employee they work for the public interest and not for their own interests! This now the time for the BDS board must "man and women up", admit this wrong and do the right thing according to an obejecitve of fair play. I truly only wise the BSD the best of luck, especially in a court of law. Ed, by the way have a good day.
Anthony Harper February 29, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Addison - your comments about Katrina are off base and unfounded. I would hope you would have facts before you make such comments.
K Smith March 01, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Kathleen Behrmann has meant so much to our family and really cares about the kids. She goes beyond the call of duty and invests in the kids lives outside of school hours! My kids all have EMotional Disabilities and are on IEPS and Kathleen has been most supportive and my children have grown academically under her leadership. It is time now that GOVERNMENT GET OUT OF EDUCATION. NO single individual or small group such as the board should have that much power to treat educators like Mrs. Behrmann as pawns that have invested their livlihoods into their professions only to have someone oust them out! Kathleen should have had an opportunity to know the concerns and given an opportunity to address them like any teacher does as Kathleen did for us with her staff! I am extremely saddened and disappointed with the Brentwood School District with what they did to a great educator and leader!
Shanahan March 02, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Anthony, come up with something actually intelligent to say. May I suggest a rebuttal to Addison's comments?
Anthony Harper March 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
(Response Part 1) Shanahan Ok, "I'll volunteer" to respond to you. I doubt that this will be the intelligent response that you are seeking. It amazes me when people who are compelled to comment/blog prefer to use half names, initials, fake names and the like. Personally when I feel strongly enough about an issue I want people to know it's me. Yes, this can be a huge price to pay. Do you wonder why more people don't voluntarily jump at the chance to have others publically question their integrity and make unfounded comments about them? Could it be that it's always easier to sit on the sideline and thrown complaints at the people actually in the game instead of volunteering to do the hard work themselves? For that reason I say God bless the people who volunteer to help our community.
Anthony Harper March 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
(Response Part 2) As for your second request of me: 1. I'm glad to see young people interested in the community. 2. I don’t think Addison attended the board meeting when this was discussed. 3. I don't think he has spoken directly with Katrina. 4. Only a limited number of people know the facts, and that's the way it should be until the situation is fully resolved. 5. Being on a board sometimes places you in the uncomfortable position of not being able to respond to questions because one misspoken word could lead to a lawsuit. It was during my tenure on the school board that Ms. B was promoted to principal. Joe H and I were her two strongest supporters. So I'll speak for myself and say I like Ms. B and I am very grateful for her service to our kids. When our community needs someone to step forward, add more to their already busy schedule, and have people hurl unfounded comments at them, all you have to say is, "I'LL volunteer."
Ed March 02, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Anthony makes a great point... There are lots of people angry at the board because they don't have the facts or they have one side of the story. If you are so 'involved' now... How many are willing to volunteer their time to serve on the school board? There isn't an election in April, because there's only one candidate. So if u care so much to publicly complain... Put your time and effort on the line!!
Shanahan March 04, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I was only asking for a rebuttal, not flexing any sort of power to justify anything. Anthony was calling out Addison without providing any logic and now he has presented facts and insight. Now we have gotten somewhere.
hoss March 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Yes, true enough, one side of the story, perhaps, may only be in the Patch, at this time; however, a court of law it will be both sides story it is only a matter of time. Mr. Harper is correct, anyone, who takes the time to serve their community, should be admired, but, that is as far as that goes. This is not a free pass for them not to exercise their over sight function of the public agencies they oversee, or allow themselves to overwhelmed by legalese or by expert speak. Group think is the surest sign of dysfunction in any organization. Board members are entrusted to ask questions and demand that the demand administration, cross all the “t” and dot all “I” and to get it right, and prevent, what could possibly, be a rather, costly law suit for the BSD. All Brentwood stakeholders must make their objections know as to the unjust “termination” of Kathleen Behrmann. All Brentwood residents who object to this injustice must make their voices known to the board by attending its regular next meeting. Let the Brentwood Board of Education know that they have erred and need to represent the interest of the Community, and retain Kathleen Behrmann in her current position.
Ed March 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Hoss! Just putting this out there! 5 members of the board voted for/ 1 voted against! They had all the facts! Nobody as far as I know Denies she is an exemplary human being and an amazing Educator! Sometimes that might not translate to effective administrator. We do not have the PERSONAL details or PROFESIONAL details, that is what the board Privately and discretely evaluates in our behalf! So if 5 voted one way and 1 against why would we have to assume that 1 person was so correct and the other 5 were totally wrong? I can tell you that I admired Mother Theresa but I would not have wanted her to be the PRESIDENT of Apple Corp!
Mary Konroy March 06, 2012 at 03:09 PM
It would be interesting to know how board member Michelle Hassemer would have voted: pro or con Behrmann's removal. She was absent that day.
K Smith March 09, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Ed, Dr. Penworthy told Kathleen Behrmann she was being terminated due to low MAP scores and that parents don't like her. These are both INCORRECT! McGrath's MAP scores have been higher than the district scores in some of the recent years and we know the parents love Mrs. Behrmann as witnessed by the recent turnout at the board meeting.

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